Bridle Your Tongue

“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6).

Gracious speech is something that many struggle with and something that I strive to attain. It is true that you cannot take words back after you’ve said them. How many words are said in anger and then regretted for the rest of one’s life?

“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless” (James 1:26).

This verse tells just how important controlling the tongue really is. It’s easy to think we are right with God but, if we don’t control our tongue, James tells us our religion is worthless. This can be shown by temper, cussing, anything that is the opposite of self-control.

“If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body (James 3:2).

We all know that there is no such thing as a perfect person and yet Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:48, “Be ye, therefore, perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” If we are to strive for perfection, we must strive to control our tongue.

“And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so” (James 3:6-10).

Wow. There is a lot in these verses. I encourage you to meditate on these but don’t come away with the conclusion that, “See? It’s hopeless.” The call goes out to challenge you to control your tongue so that God is honored in everything you do.

contollingTongue

When I was in school, I learned how two-faced people can be, especially girls. They would tell you they like you one minute and then turn on you the next. I expect some of that came from insecurity but it was deceit, and I hated it.

Unfortunately, I sometimes see this in adults too. Instead of using words to build up others, we may be nice to a person’s face but then we stab them in the back, killing them with our words. They may or may not ever find out but the damage is done just the same.

What are the primary things that come out of your mouth? Gossip? Slander? Profanity? Curses? Tearing down others?

Or are you speaking words of life, blessing, encouragement, and joy to everyone you encounter? You are the only one who can control your tongue. Or maybe I should say the Holy Spirit in you is able to control your tongue, but you have to let Him. Sometimes you may have to literally bite your tongue to keep from reacting the way you usually would but do that if it helps.

Today can be a new day. When you find yourself going back into old habits, get on your knees, ask God’s forgiveness, and start anew. Do that 50 times a day if you have to. But don’t give up. God can give you a new, uplifting vocabulary if you want it. Won’t you start incorporating that today?

Do Not Pass Me By

Savior, Savior, hear my humble cry
While on others Thou art calling, do not pass me by

Do you ever feel that way? As though God is so busy tending to everyone else’s cries that He doesn’t have time to hear yours? I expect everyone has wondered that at some time or other but, for those who have walked with the Lord for any length of time, you know that He is never too busy for anyone who cries out to Him.

answered-prayer

I heard someone say that, when we have walked with God a while, it’s not as important that we receive immediate answers to our prayers. In fact, it’s during the waiting periods, when we’re not hearing anything, that the greatest growth can come if we let patience have her perfect work.

There are still times I wish God would answer me sooner but I can honestly say that I never doubt that He hears me and that He cares. If our prayers were always answered right away, there would be no need for faith.

If you are asking the Savior not to pass you by today, take courage. He has not forgotten you. Your answer is on the way. It may not be the answer you want but it will come. Let your trial draw you closer to Him. And know He loves you more than you could ever imagine.

A lot to consider regarding our “little sins.”

The following article by Frank Powell gives us a lot to think about:

image9 Sins the Church Is Surprisingly OK With as Long as You Love Jesus

What if the big sins, you know the ones you try hardest to avoid, aren’t the greatest threat?

I was in an engineering class the first time I watched the tragic explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger. Even though I wasn’t alive when it happened, I caught a glimpse of the horror thousands must have felt as the events unfolded.

And, the first question everyone wanted to know was, “What happened?”

After months of investigation, here’s what the Rogers Commission (the group commissioned to investigate the explosion) discovered: An o-ring seal in the right solid rocket booster failed at take-off. I won’t bore you with the details, but an o-ring is a small device relative to the size of a space shuttle. Very small.

It wasn’t something huge, like a puncture in the rocket booster or a hole in the cabin, that caused this disaster. It was a small, seemingly insignificant, o-ring failure.

I think there’s a lesson here for the church. What if the big sins, you know the ones you try hardest to avoid, aren’t the greatest threat to your joy and the church’s mission?

Maybe it’s the sins lying underneath, the ones considered normal or acceptable, the ones going undetected, that are affecting the church the most. I want to address nine of these sins.

Continue reading here.

Every Christian Believes Election

Every Christian Believes Election

Not everyone consciously affirms the doctrine of election. The reasons for this vary and are definitely outside the scope of this particular article. But whether you don’t like it, don’t agree with it, or are simply neutral about it for the time being, predestination and election are concepts in Scripture that every believer will be confronted with. Even if you choose not to deal with it, the unbelieving world still has heard about it, learned it when they were in church as a kid, and/or logically deduces it through the knowledge that God knew before hand that man would fall, and yet still created us. So even if we bury our head in the sand and ignore this, the world will not let us. And, if we have faithful pastors and brethren in Christ who challenge, edify, and provoke us in godliness through the word of God, they won’t let us ignore this topic either.

Although you may hold to a more unique position concerning predestination and election, you will probably sympathize with either of these two views:

  1. God chose to save some out of His own free will, without regard to their future faith in Him.
  2. God chose to save some out of His own free will, but with regard to their future faith in Him.

I hate to be overly simplistic, but this is really the pivot point of almost every predestination conversation. Regardless of whether or not you believe man’s will is totally free or a slave, whether man can fall away from grace, or that man has the ability to resist God’s grace, this is where the starting line is painted.

Does God choose men from before the foundation of the world in accordance with man’s future faith? Or does God do this freely from His own volition without regard to who He knew would choose Him? This may sound a little extreme, but I propose that, although this conversation is important, and that I lean toward God choosing of His own volition without regard to our future faith, in the grand scheme of things, both are essentially saying the same thing, just with different emphasis. Here’s what I mean.

Whenever I get into a conversation with someone that strongly insists that God foreknew who would choose Him, and therefore chose who would be saved from that, my normal reaction is not to exegete Romans 8:29 properly (although certain contexts may allow for it). Nor do I fret when someone dogs election and predestination when they make mention of how God is a tyrannical, diabolical, evil, etc., for electing some to salvation while choosing others also to hell (which is often a straw man, misunderstanding, misinterpretation, ad hominem, and most of the time, a deliberate negligence to comprehend the doctrine of reprobation. Meanwhile wrongly attributing predestination to double predestination). I just simply ask if they believe God is omniscient. That’s all. Here’s why.

If God is omniscient, then that means He knew even before all of us were born who would be saved. God still possessed this knowledge of whom He would choose, and He had it without our permission. How we see God working this out from Scripture can be debated, but it can still be a bit of a red herring sometimes to discuss in my opinion. Because since God is omniscient, He knew from the foundation of the world who was destined to salvation. Understanding this, if God knew who would be saved, even before we were born, how does the fact that He chose based off our faith change the reality that God was in the beginning sovereignly deciding who would be saved? Did you catch that? Let’s say it another way. Even if God did indeed choose to save some based off of who would trust Him, and He foreknew who would believe Him, and from that decided, how does that negate the fact that He decided before we were even born? Even before we were even able to exercise that faith? We still didn’t have a say in the matter!

My intent here is not to rouse strife for shock and awe. I developed this in order to establish some peace in a conversation as well as some logical agreement. If you are a Christian, and you believe that God is omniscient, by default you implicitly ascribe to predestination and election, although unadmittedly. You may not believe that God elected and predestined some despite their faith, but you must logically deduce and concede to the fact that God’s omniscience alone makes election at least plausible. And by simply trying to soften the blow of election in saying that God chose some to be saved in accordance with our faith, one must admit that it doesn’t sweep away the problem at hand –  that man’s problem with God is His sovereignty and free will to do as He pleases way before we were even born! A problem that even most professing Christians today have contention with. But if we are honest, we have no choice but to affirm this if we believe God is omniscient.

I hear the marching drum pounding with an army of rebuttals. One rebuttal is that even though God is omniscient, that doesn’t mean men are not accountable for their sin. I agree. Often Calvinists are attacked because others believe that in the doctrine of election that man can’t be held responsible for their sin. This of course is not true, but once again outside the scope of this article. Another rebuttal is that God’s omniscience is not the same as God choosing some to be saved. I agree again. But His omniscience alone approves of His will to choose because it was already in His nature to know and do as He pleases. So while the act of knowing and choosing may be distinct, they are in harmony with each other. Because how does God know who will be saved, and yet, decide against it? And if He did change His mind, and like man wavered between choosing (which I don’t believe), it still leaves us with the same conclusion.

Let’s say you’re still not convinced. For argument sake, let’s say you’re not persuaded that God’s omniscience does not equal affirming predestination and election, and that election (where God chooses of His own will and pleasure without regard to who would choose Him) still presents an evil, unbenevolent God. Philosophically speaking, you cannot have mercy without judgment, can you? Can you have evil without good? Can you understand salvation without sin? At base level, if you didn’t believe in double predestination (the idea that God chooses some to heaven as well as hell), or even predestination (God elects some to be saved meanwhile passing over others), you still would have to conclude that God knew from the beginning who would go to hell and to heaven. Unless you believe in universalism where God saves everyone eventually, or affirm a pelagian/deistic god who purposefully limits His own knowledge of the future so as to not infringe upon the will of man (both are heresy by the way), you must believe, as a Christian, that some will inevitable go to heaven or hell in the end. And God knew it! This isn’t fun to talk about out loud. I know. But it is still reality. Regardless of which side of the fence you stand on, you must, I repeat, you must submit to the idea that God knew from the beginning who would eventually go to heaven or hell. It’s not about whether or not God is evil or good, or making Him more or less benevolent. It’s about accurately representing God and His word without conceding to man’s ideas of how they feel God should act.

I don’t say any of this without grace. It took me a long time to come to these realizations, and I trust that many readers will find what I have said offensive. Meanwhile others are perhaps still trying to comprehend such a deep theological issue. Trust me, I sympathize. I only wish to make plain that in arguing for whether or not God chose in accordance with man’s will or His own, that we don’t cower from it simply because some have issues with it. And whatever the motive someone has to propagate that God chose because He knew who would have faith in Him, it doesn’t really change anything in light of God’s omniscience. Because if God is omniscient, He still knew, before we were born, who would be saved. And He still acted, prior to our birth, based upon His own will and good pleasure and consulted no one in process!

In essence, we will always end up back to square one regarding the most classic question ever asked by man: “If God knew man would fall, why did He create us in the first place.” The answer may vary depending on your theology, but it doesn’t do away from the inescapable truth that God, if He is truly that, has already determined who would be saved, based off of the good pleasure of His will, and the benevolence of His person. And that it will be through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ – Son of God, 2nd person of the Trinity, fully God fully man – that this salvation is attainable. Because, if you think about it, God didn’t have to save anyone. None! We all deserve hell. Period. If God saved one person, it would be the most gracious and loving act that God could have bestowed upon a human being, and God would be perfectly justified in sending the rest to eternal torment. But since God is infinitely more gracious than we could imagine, He has chosen to save millions to date (by my puny estimation). If man wants to secure his free will and be a contributor to their salvation, they can have it. So as long as God gets to keep His free will and do as He pleases without obligation to any man’s volition.

-Until we go home

The Man Upstairs?

manning-bud-628

“I’m going to drink a lot of Budweiser tonight, Tracy, I promise you that,” he added. “I’m going to take care of those things first and definitely going to say a little prayer and thank the man upstairs for this great opportunity.” (emphasis added)

 

This is what all star football quarterback, Peyton Manning, said after he won Super Bowl 50 this past Sunday. Some congratulated him for sharing his “faith” in national television. However, what is the man upstairs supposed to mean? Or better yet, whom is he referencing?

I have been personally annoyed by this statement for many years. When someone calls God the man upstairs, it is a telling sign that they don’t know Him. Think about it this way. If my mother lived upstairs in my two-floor apartment building, and I referred to her as the woman upstairs, what does that infer about the relationship that we have? From a linguistic standpoint, it could just be a cultural phrase, and it’s semantic intention is purely arbitrary. However, throughout history, Christianity is defined by Christ dying for sinners, then regenerating and adopting them as His children. From there we continually cry out, “Abba, Father” (Romans 5:15). We are made sons and daughters by His will (John 1:13), and are no longer called children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3-6). At what point in Scripture or history among God’s people do we find such distancing language to describe God?

I am not too upset over Peyton’s choice of words. In part, I’m glad he said it. Because maybe now we can discuss how a true believer ought to address God among the heathen. If He is our God, why choose language that infers a gap in the relationship? This kind of speech is typically used by those that do not have a meaningful relationship. By that I mean, usually, none at all. If I called my wife “the woman upstairs,” there would be some indication that the relationship is straining, unless there’s an obvious sign I was joking.

But many aren’t joking when they use this trite slogan. To some, this is most recognition they will give God, and that is enough for them. To others, this is a hat tip of humble reverence. Whether it is done ignorantly, or with purpose, those that say that they know Him should not (dare I say will not) bow to this kind of speech. If eternal life, as defined by Christ, is knowing God, and His son whom He sent (John 17:3), I can’t see how a truly regenerated believer would allow such catchphrases to dwell in their vocabulary.

On one hand, I am saying that Christians need to rethink such pithy slogans to describe their God. On the other hand, I believe that this phrase is a penalty flag, that could be a sign that the person does not know Jesus. In other words, I believe anyone who uses “the man upstairs” has never actually met the Man (Christ Jesus; 1 Timothy 2:5). But who am I kidding? Could someone be a true believer and mistakenly utilize such ignorance? I have to consent to the possibility. But more often than not, specifically in my experience, whenever I hear “the man upstairs” come out of someone’s mouth, what follows after, whether in word or deed, as just as atrocious.

Pray for Peyton Manning.

 

– Until We Go Home

The Visitor is available to download for free today.

imageWhat happens when someone travels into the past to deliver an urgent message about the future, but ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time?

Would those unintended recipients of the future warning be able to stop any of the atrocities of the 20th Century (including the assassination of President Kennedy)? Or, in spite of man’s ability to travel through time, would God’s sovereignty demand that the horrible events of history’s past can never be changed?

The Visitor, by J.L. Pattison, is a short story best described as part science fiction, part history, part time travel, and part mystery. With a tablespoon of politics, a pinch of dystopia, and a dash of conspiracy, this tale will take you on an entertaining ride with a climactic ending that will leave you in contemplation long after you’ve put it down.

Here’s what others are saying about The Visitor:

– “I appreciated the conflict between the sovereignty of God and time travel. I have often wondered what would happen if time travel were possible. This story reminded [me] of the rich man and Lazarus from the Gospel of Luke, especially Father Abraham’s words ‘If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.’ Or in this case, traveled back through time.”  Javier L. Taylor (5 Stars)

– “A new talent to watch. . . . If the Twilight Zone still existed, this short story would be an episode, it is that good. . . . Rod Serling himself would be proud.” PapaPhilly (5 Stars)

– “Possibly the best short story I have [ever] read!” Anne (5 Stars)

– “I guarantee you will be old before you forget this book.” Mark Escalera (5 Stars)

– “Very thought provoking.” Laura McGowen (4 Stars)

– “The author has crafted an excellent short story that captures your imagination and draws you in with its characters. . . . Well done.” Chris Hohnholz (5 Stars)

– “Reads like a suspenseful Twilight Zone episode . . . . If you are a fan of the Twilight Zone this book is for you.” John Cavallone (5 Stars)

– “There is an allusion to the tension between the sovereignty of God and the outworking of history in relation to time travel. I find that to be an interesting thought experiment. Finally, there’s a big nod given to Neil Postman and his vision of the American future given in Amusing Ourselves to Death . . . . The weaving of an interesting fictional narrative with theology, history, political commentary, media ecology, science fiction . . . in such a short space is impressive.” Heath Cross (5 Stars)

– “I love that it moved quickly and touched on so many interesting points and . . . had such an unpredictable ending.” Bernard Ruiz (5 Stars)

– “It was amazing and scary at the same time. The Vistor left me breathless.” Michelle Bledsoe (5 Stars)

– ” I found this to be a new concept for this genre and actually left me pondering what I would change if I could go back and warn others. Overall, a very thoughtful and entertaining read. The writing and pace was perfect . . . . I found this very enjoyable and thought provoking . . . .” Jenaca (5 Stars)

– “The plot is compelling – I imagine Rod Sterling could adapt it quite nicely for an episode of the Twilight Zone.” Jay Eldred (4 Stars)

– “The Visitor . . . [is] . . . a truism that big things come in small packages.” Chad (5 Stars)

– “Very well written in a manner that kept me riveted to the end.” Paul Bayne (5 Stars)

“This story left me with so many questions, and theories. Not about the plot or the characters, but about humans and their choice of not seeing what’s right in front of their eyes.” Laura (5 Stars)

“I really enjoyed this book! . . . I didn’t want the story to be over. It had great depth and character development for such a short story. There were several thought provoking themes woven into the story line that hung in my head for several days after reading [it]. . . . I look forward to reading more from this author.” Kayci (4 Stars)

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If you’re ready to read a unique tale that is also family friendly, then download The Visitor today at Amazon.com.

Even if you don’t own a Kindle, you can still read The Visitor by downloading the free Kindle reading app to your tablet, phone or PC here